<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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The People of Oaxaca’s March for Dignity Heads Towards Mexico City

A Conversation with Two Section 22 Teachers on the Long March from Morelos to Mexico State


By Erwin Slim
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Morelos and Mexico State

October 11, 2006

MORELOS STATE, OCTOBER 6: At the vanguard of the march a small truck plays songs of popular power along with voices that call for continued struggle and striking. Thousands of men, women, and children who walk with the Oaxacan Peoples March for Dignity proclaiming “Don’t Forget June 14th” are not slowing down on their way to Mexico City. There are around three thousand of them and according to their calculations they will be in Mexico City on the 8th or 9th of October. Some are visibly exhausted, but most are chanting vigorously, raising their fists high and making V signs, demonstrating the strength that characterizes this popular struggle.


Photos: D.R. 2006 Erwin Slim
One of them reads a road sign and shouts “Dangerous Curve!” Everyone smiles and, for a moment, manages to forget what it was that has brought them this far. Since September 21st, this March For Dignity has advanced five hundred kilometers toward Mexico City with the objective of demonstrating and asking the Senate about the withdrawal of powers in the state of Oaxaca. Various Mexican flags, Benito Juarez images, and diverse placards can be seen that reflect the representation and support this movement has in most of the Oaxacan territories.

We are leaving the state of Morelos where, on October 2nd, twenty-five-year-old Juan Manuel Castro Patino, a young teacher on the march, died after suffering a heart attack. On entering Mexico State, memory drives us to remember Atenco, and the repressive politics of the federal and state governments against social movements. The inhabitants of each town we pass offer drinks to those marching, or simply express their support, shouting: “Be strong! You’re not alone!” The technique for alleviating the pain of blisters and sore feet is wet-wipes in the shoes.

“This reporter has interviewed two members of the Oaxacan local Section 22 teachers’ union, who prefer to remain anonymous due to the constant harassment and repression from various governmental groups. They say that this march raises awareness; it teaches people that this is the only way towards justice and that the march is for the dignity of the peoples of Oaxaca and of the entire country. This is not the first time the teachers have marched to the Federal District. The difference between the three marches to Mexico City in the last twenty years and the fourth march on this occasion, after so many years of struggle, is that the marchers are not alone this time. Now, it is also the people, represented by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO).

1st Teacher:“This march is going to continue,” the first teacher said “Ulises or no, we are going to the Senate and we have to get to Mexico City; it’s an agreement determined by 2,500 assembly delegates. Five or six days after Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) leaves we’ll go back to the classrooms, but we know that the fight is never over; we have slogans that speak of constant struggle. If this conflict is resolved now, we’d have to continue fighting for a special school timetable and get a normal year for the whole state, and they have to pay what they owe us. In this way the movement can spread, the fight is not over.”

What would be the next phase of the struggle if Ulises Ruiz leaves the Oaxacan government?

2nd Teacher: “What we want for Oaxaca is a transparent law that serves the people. In Oaxaca, whoever holds the title of governor has always done what they wanted. Now, the first forum for changing the foundation of the law has been made in the state of Oaxaca. When URO leaves we want peace with the interim governor; that elections are called and a call for the second, third, fourth forum is organized; what’s needed is a change in the law that includes a fundamental emphasis on the habits and customs of the people, and when the people decide that the government is not working, it can be taken away. Because of the way things are now, the government can steal, can kill and do what it wants during its six years. This is what we want to change. Politicians talk of democracy for their people, not for the people. A constitution will be made whereby the people can question the state’s accounts, whereby the people are the government and so determine the fundamental necessities for the common good by popular consensus. As the Other Campaign says: to lead by obeying.

“We have these politicians who only know about brooms in theory, or from diagrams, because they don’t even sweep their own homes, and yet they alone decide what the people will get, even though the money belongs to the people. How many millions of pesos does it cost to send all these army and navy troops into our state?”

1st Teacher, between tears: “What’s happening makes me mad and the people won’t tolerate it. They are defending themselves. When URO started the repression the people put up barricades on their own, nobody told them to do it; it was self-defense. They defended themselves and URO couldn’t continue with his repressive intimidation tactics.”

2nd Teacher: “Now we are here, and the march itself has the protection of the people. They say: ‘Keep going, Oaxacans, keep going!’ and, ‘Forward teachers, the people are with you!’ It shows the desire for change. These are pickpockets, pedophiles, and drug traffickers in our government! But they’re already losing power; they’re not going to be able to scam us anymore. Oaxaca already realizes that you can’t trust them or the corporate media. A Group of liars! Oaxaca is not quitting, we’re united by pain!”

1st Teacher: “Now we realize that the people can change things. We have engineers, professionals, architects, and other people ready to represent their common interests, with love and respect for their people. That’s why the federal government is so afraid of dropping Ulises Ruiz. Felipe Calderón could be dropped too, and that’s why they’re defending URO. The people are waking up!

And in the case of a military incursion?

1st Teacher: “It’s like lighting a wick: the whole country would explode into dissent. It’s already been seen in the case of the EZLN. Through this process they are strengthening the struggles of all Mexico, principally those of the indigenous.

“Those in government are thinking hard about what to do because they know that if they make one false move, many communities, from the mountain ranges of Juárez to all other regions, will come down upon them, not by road but by mountain. The people are so united by these repressions that they are strengthened, and if things continue on, Calderon won’t be able to govern. What we want for our people is legitimate. This tremendous force is waking up the people, and we will achieve our goals!”

After one of the longest and most difficult walks since the march started, a heavy night rain welcomes us to Tepetlixpa, Mexico State. In a few quick minutes the people are completely drenched; the arduous walk comes to an end. The demonstrators are directed to a sports auditorium where a warm welcome awaits them and, above all, fellow Mexicans once again give food to these extraordinary social fighters.

Those that have tents pitch them on the spot, and for those that don’t, a simple tarp or piece of cardboard makes the floor feel less cold and hard. A woman complains of the intense pain in her feet, while some of her friends help by massaging, saying “it’s worth the effort; if it’s for the good of the people, it’s worth it.”

I can sense and feel that the people that make up this march are sincere, smiling all the time, projecting an atmosphere of legitimate and tireless struggle. None of the looks or smiles that I capture with my camera are false or hypocritical, unlike those personalities that we’ve become accustomed to in the present rotten institutional politics. The attitude and transparency of their eyes accentuates the tenacity of their fight for justice. Money is not important, because having to borrow cash, having to pawn belongings, having to sell the car, and other solutions all sustain this struggle of the common good, where they share in hope. All this while so many politicians and businessmen – which are ultimately one and the same (like Alfredo Harp Helú, ex-owner of BANAMEX, beneficiary of Fobaprao and brother of Carlos Slim Helú, third richest man in the world) – call meetings between themselves to see how their personal interests in Oaxaca are being affected.

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